Bassam Hamzy’s various businesses in prison

Hamzy’s business interests, the court said, include importing branded sneakers from Asia and a fruit that grows year-round in South America. He was involved in the distribution of a large amount of bathroom accessories. He was seeking an interest in real estate development in Burwood and a “$100,000 opportunity” to buy an interest in Peruvian nightclubs. Investments in mineral water, agriculture and real estate in Belize, Central America were also on the agenda.

Hamzy’s attorney, Dennis Stewart, argued that his client was only doing legitimate business and bringing in money that he could use to help pay the legal fees of friends and associates along with his own.

But prosecutors claim that Hamzy’s apparent charity with legal fees was little more than a facade to cover up serious criminal activity – where an order to “pay the attorney” is code for supplying drugs to a dealer.

The Crown case relies heavily on the testimonies of two former Brothers 4 Life members, identified only as Witness I and Witness A — and their evidence, Crown prosecutor Adrian Robertson said in his opening, through intercepted phone calls and text messages messages and other police surveillance would be confirmed. Both witnesses will receive reduced sentences for cooperation, provided their testimonies are truthful, Robertson told the jury.

The court has closed the testimony to the public except for a handful of accredited journalists.

Tuesday through Friday, Witness I testified from a distance, beamed his face into the room via two large television screens: one above the dock for the jury to see; the other against the accused.

Witness I told the court he was courted via personal phone calls by Hamzy to join Brothers 4 Life, who originally used a contraband cell phone to contact from his cell phone.

Hamzy hatched plans for “a chapter he wanted to open in Wollongong” – meaning a local branch of the Brothers 4 Life gang. Witness I said he initially “politely declined” to join, but on a later call he was courted by Hamzy, who told him: “We have accountants, we have lawyers, we have many different types of people at Brothers 4 Life and we do legitimate things too”.

His interest was piqued by talk of construction, “which I was more interested in,” plans to import “a fruit that he said grows most of the year” from South America, and a venture, Nike – or importing adidas sneakers from Thailand – “I don’t know if they were real or fake”.

Finally, Witness I said, “I joined Brothers 4 Life”. But despite his interest in legal affairs, he quickly became involved in the drug supply business.

Encrypted calls

Witness I told the court he received instructions from Hamzy to have his mobile phone taken by listening to his telephone conversations with Churchill.

The lawyer called him and discussed business and then said, “Bass will call me from prison… please be quiet and I will give him your answer.”

In one such call, of several, broadcast in court, Witness I. Churchill is heard saying, “I saw the solicitor the other day, I gave the solicitor another 7,000.” Joining the call from the prison phone, Hamzy says he was “a little confused” about how much was paid to whom, but “I know exactly how much [Witness I] pay the lawyers…it’s my bread and butter”.

“I absolutely hope no one has discussed my legal fees…what other people judge for my appeal is none of their business,” Hamzy can be heard saying.


Witness I told the court that conversations like this related to drug deals, not actual legal fees. The “lawyer” mentioned is a drug dealer, “pay” means supply of drugs. Numbers can refer to either actual money or ounces of drugs.

Throughout testimony, Hamzy maintained a matter-of-fact composure, frequently plucking sticky notes from a motley pile on the bench in front of him and passing them to his attorney.

During an occasionally heated cross-examination, Stewart repeatedly stated to Witness I that “You’re just making it up.”

The witness acknowledged there were inconsistencies in his account of the code used – sometimes $3,500 meant one ounce of drugs while $4,000 could mean four ounces – but insisted “that’s exactly what happened”.

He also agreed that when he first spoke to Hamzy on the phone, there was “no discussion about drugs” or what code words they would use. Without such a conversation, “there was no basis for you to believe that Bassam Hamzy used a code through the agency of his attorney,” Stewart said.

“I disagree,” the witness replied. “It was a code.”

The trial, which is expected to last four weeks, will continue before Judge Antony Townsden.

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Justin Scaccy

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